Ongoing work on 16th century wreck should shed light on its origins

A pot and other artifacts photographed around the Nargen wreck.
A pot and other artifacts photographed around the Nargen wreck. Source: Eesti Meremuuseum

Researchers from the Estonian Maritime Museum (Eesti Meremuuseum) are three-dimensionally modeling a wreck found in 2015 in Tallinn Bay. The work should help to shed light on vessels which plied their trade to and from Tallinn in the early modern era.

The wreck is of a vessel called the Nargen, thought to have sunk close to the island of Naissaar, which lies in Tallinn Bay and is administratively part of the capital.

Ivar Treffner, researcher at the Estonian Maritime Museum said of the project that: "We plan to conclude the investigative works we started on the cultural heritage site. Starting from this year, our team once again has the capability to carry out full-scale archaeological investigations underwater."

"Using this capability, we hope to answer the questions that research started last decade has not managed to resolve – the origin, type, and role of the Nargen as well as the origin and use of related findings. This data can unlock new knowledge of maritime trade at the time and of Tallinn's role therein," Treffner continued, via a museum press release.

Sonar imaging from the wreck of the Nargen. Source: Eesti Meremuuseum

3D modeling will be used in the process.

"A 3D model will be created on the basis of the underwater photos and videos taken of the wreck of the Nargen. On the one hand, it provides a comprehensive picture of the current state and details of the wreck. On the other, the model allows supplementing our knowledge of Estonian as well as European maritime affairs in the sixteenth and seventeenth century," Treffner added.

3D modeling of the Nargen in progress. Source: Eesti Meremuuseum

"Any peculiarities we can find on the wreck will help to determine the type of the ship. With the help of the model, we can take wood samples from the wreck and its cargo. Analyzing the results allows us to determine when and where the ship was built and how long and how it was used,' said Priit Lätti, researcher at the Estonian Maritime Museum.

The wreck was discovered by the Estonian Navy during a mine countermeasures operation in 2015, while the museum started its research in June in conjunction with the National Heritage Board (Muinsuskaitseamet) and representatives of the Finnish Scientific Diving Academy.

 The 3D modeling phase is scheduled to be complete before the end of summer, while archaeologists from the Maritime Museum plan to continue working on two other early-modern wrecks, the Citadel, off Pirita and also in Tallinn Bay, and the Fluyt, located on the Uusmadal shoal, somewhat further out to sea.

Tallinn, then known as Reval, was part of the Hanseatic League, a northern European trading and defensive confederation, through to the 17th century. This and Estonia's tumultuous history contribute to the large number of wrecks from many different periods in history found off the Estonian coast.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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